Don Frank to serve as 5th councilor

By Jim Stanford on January 17, 2013

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The Jackson Town Council today appointed Don Frank, a 22-year Jackson Hole resident and Indian Trails homeowner, to serve the remaining two years in the seat vacated by Melissa Turley.

Frank is president of Dembergh Construction. He and his wife, Maryellen, have two teenage boys.

Mayor Mark Barron and councilors Bob Lenz, Hailey Morton and Jim Stanford voted to appoint him, after hours of deliberation over two days. The seat was vacant following Turley’s election to the Teton County Board of Commissioners.

Frank was one of 11 applicants who interviewed before the council Wednesday. He was the first to submit his letter of interest to the town in December. During the interview, he came across as thoughtful, experienced in budgets and knowledgeable about construction.

His interests are varied. He owns a degree in microbiology and brewing science from Cal-Davis and was a partner in Grand Teton Brewing Co. He also studied literature, Spanish and psychology at Central University of Iowa.

When asked by the mayor about his ability to provide leadership in an unpopular environment, Frank responded, “Candor is kindness.”

The decision was a difficult one, given a strong field of applicants that featured two former councilmen, two current or former planning commissioners and three candidates from the last election, including runner-up Phil Cameron.

Aside from an applicant’s wife and a News&Guide reporter, not one member of the public attended the open interview session.


Posted under Politics, Town Government

11 Comments so far

  1. David Stubbs January 17, 2013 1:46 pm

    Wishing Don Frank all the best. This process of appointment seems like a circumvention of our electoral system to me. Town voter participation was at an all-time high in November. Why not pick the next highest vote getter? Can anyone explain the reason for this law?

  2. aw January 18, 2013 10:22 am

    Have to say I agree with the process in place. Had the circumstances been different in the election (3 seats available instead of 2), maybe other people would have run, maybe voters would have voted differently. What if only 3 candidates had run for the 2 seats and the third person got one vote? Should that person default to be our ‘elected official’? Seems to me by choosing Frank that our 2 newbies and the rest of our elected officials made a well thought out (and tough) decision to pick someone with the skills to fill in the experience gaps they acknowledge they have. Props.

  3. Js2 January 18, 2013 2:02 pm

    aw, With respect, I disagree with you. Melissa’s seat was well known to be in contention as she was a favored candidate for one of the commissioner seats. I wholeheartedly agree with David that it is a great shame that the council chose someone that not only didn’t put their name in a hat for the TOWN to consider, but waited for the closed door selection.
    I appreciate that he may have expertise in construction and business, but Phil Cameron continues to lead our community toward seeking sustainable solutions for the future of this town across all avenues. I am very disappointed with the council’s decision.

  4. EJ January 18, 2013 8:59 pm

    Well put js2. I would add two things: 1) the voters spoke – for new, younger leadership on the council. Hailey, Jim and Phil were clearly a close first choice for many in our community, a tough call among the three who put enormous amounts of time and energy actually running for office. 2) recall that Jim himself, at the candidate forum, spoke highly of Phil, and courageously answered a question the others sheepishly dodged – who would you appoint? (Yes, the voters were led to believe that Melissa’s spot would likely be filled from the November slate.) This week, I feel betrayed by Jim, as just another slimy politician. Jim was the vote really as unanimous reported? The appointment of a friend of the mayor after 15 minute interviews? Phil Cameron spent longer introducing himself on my front porch in October. Something is fishy, and our town deserves better. The given rationale that Don Frank fills the contractor and developer void is gut-churning to the part of the electorate that already feels largely disenfranchised by politics and closed-door dealing in this town. Again, the voters spoke to inject a new generation of leaders, not beholden to developers and contractors. I have a difficult time believing that our newest council members feel that they don’t have the expertise or confidence to do the job, without selecting a crutch – another member from the old boys club. I have never met Don Frank; though I wish him the best in these challenging times of his selection to office. My support however remains behind Phil, whatever his next heartfelt pursuit to make the Town of Jackson a better place for us all.

  5. Chad January 20, 2013 1:16 pm

    Ditto EJ.

  6. Exactly January 20, 2013 2:50 pm

    So, if Don Frank wanted to be on town council, why did he not run for town council? Seems like a bypass of the electoral system to me. I mean, Phil lost to JS by a few votes, it wasn’t a scenario where he did only get one vote – he got tons. Furthermore, Phil was selected in the primary – where was Don Frank in either the primary, or the General? Total BS. Phil should have gotten it, hands down. Completely betrayed by the people I just voted into office, once again. Nick work guys.

  7. Jim Stanford January 21, 2013 4:02 pm

    I understand your frustration and appreciate many of your arguments.

    David, would you feel differently if Jim Genzer had been the runner-up?

    This was a collaborative decision-making process, and I am but one voice. For any business of the Town Council, it takes three votes to get something approved.

    Do know that I worked very hard on this appointment, starting with the questions for each applicant during the interviews. I did some research on Wyoming’s open meetings law to make sure we did not misstep. In advance, I made the suggestion that our deliberation take place in public, but I did not have enough support from the other councilors.

    I cannot say what took place or was said during executive session because that would undermine Wyoming’s open meetings law. But I can say that throughout this process I did my absolute best.

    Get to know Don Frank. Although I see how an observer might connect the dots in such a way, the notion that he is a good ol’ boy is humorous. Don is a thinker and brings fresh perspective and ideas.

    These decisions are often more complicated than they appear from the outside, and that’s something I’m fast learning now that I’m on the inside.

    I appreciate the dialogue and will continue to push for openness and helping people get involved in and understand the workings of their government.

  8. John January 22, 2013 11:08 pm


    let me preface my comments by saying I voted for you and I still have hope that I don’t come to regret my decision.

    That being said, You asked David if he would feel differently if Jim Genzer was the runner-up. However, I think a better question would be: Would YOU feel differently if you were the runner-up? You took the time to familiarize yourself with the issues facing the town and cared enough to knock on doors, introduce yourself and defend your position on said issues. How would you feel if then, the group to which you hoped to join decided that someone who made ZERO effort during the campaign season was appointed in that place? (I’m not discounting Don Frank, I’m just pointing out that if he had a desire to serve, there were no obstacles to him filing and competing in both the primaries and general election)

    The bottom line is this: elections are supposed to be about the will of the people. If not, what is the purpose of the campaign? Certain people in the community (yourself included) decided it was worth your time and (considerable) effort to try and represent the people. I know it’s only a local election, but principles are supposed to mean something and I believed what you said during the campaign, and now I’m beginning to feel like I was swindled. To be honest, a big reason I voted for you was because of your courage and honesty (at least it seemed) in your response during the forum when you were asked which of the other candidates you’d vote for if you were not in the race. The fact that you answered (it seemed, honestly) was a pleasant surprise to someone who’s grown terminally cynical as far as politics are concerned. I was equal parts surprised and impressed. As it turns out, your response was nothing more than the typical posturing to which we’ve all become far too accustomed. I’ve been disillusioned by politics at the national level for quite awhile, but Jim, please don’t let me lose faith at the local level as well. Don’t be a part of the game. I still believe you’re better than that.

  9. aw January 23, 2013 10:59 am

    I certainly can agree with part of the discontent out there. Had Jim S been in Phil’s place and been passed over in the ‘selection’, I would be soured by the councils decision too. So far it seems the only person without an opinion has been Mr. Frank. Maybe a Q&A on your site or in the next Weekly for him to give the public an idea of his ‘platform’?

  10. Jim Stanford January 24, 2013 12:06 pm

    John, honestly, if I had been the runner-up, I would not have applied for the vacant seat because I do not think I would have been appointed. It takes three votes to win approval.

    Please don’t assume, because we can’t say what went on during our deliberation, the worst. My views about Phil and the importance of having run for office were well documented in advance. I suggested that we deliberate in public.

    As many of you know, I am not someone who backs down easily from what I believe in. It took two days for us to reach a decision.

    If I really had “betrayed” or “swindled” anyone, the last thing I would have done is written about it here and given everyone a chance to bash me. I felt a responsibility to state the decision and face the public, and I do so with no regrets, having worked as hard as possible on your behalf.

    And please, if any of you are dissatisfied with this or any other decision, email and I’d be happy to discuss it further over a beer or cup of coffee.

  11. John January 24, 2013 8:22 pm

    Jim, I appreciate your response. My intent was not to bash you, I think I was just a little frustrated. Point taken. I appreciate your honesty and making yourself available to defend your positions. Sadly, both are rare traits these days.

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